A recent Cunard fam trip on Queen Mary 2 “set the bar high” and helped to bust myths about the cruise line, according to agents who took part in the voyage.
Danny Forsythe of Bolsover Cruise Club, and Helen Smith of GoCruise & Travel, were on a seven-night sailing from Southampton to New York in July.
Here, they give their views on the cruise and how the experience will help moving forward.
Did you have any preconceptions of Cunard pre-sailing, and have these now changed?
Danny Forsythe: I think I did have certain preconceptions, or what I now know to be misconceptions, about Cunard. I thought the voyage would be very traditional and very formal, and even though the formal elements are available if you’re looking for them, the overall atmosphere was just one of relaxation and friendliness.
The age groups on board varied massively and there was a really good energy on the ship. I was also really blown away by the quality of the shows in the theatre and the variety of talks and seminars on offer.
Helen Smith: I think people unfairly associate Cunard with being all ballgowns and tiaras but from my experience that just isn’t the case.
Being able to actually live and breathe the brand, you understand that there are of course opportunities to dress up and be glam, but equally, lots of people were having a great time in a more relaxed setting.
What were the highlights of your cruise?
Forsythe: Being relatively new to the industry, this was my first sailing with Cunard, so I was very keen to get on board because even though I’d done some of the training, nothing beats seeing, touching and experiencing the brand for yourself.
From a learning perspective, the Cunard team kept things really lively and interesting. There were treasure hunt exercises and things like that, but it was great because it brought the group together and we were able to share our experiences and insights.
Smith: This was my first fam trip and I have to say that Cunard really set the bar high. We were well and truly spoiled with the whole trip and experienced everything as if we were paying guests.
I thought we might have been herded around as a group of travel agents, but we were able to pick and choose exactly what we did, what we saw and where we ate, which was amazing.
Having that freedom gave me far more insight into the sorts of guests on board, why they were travelling and what they were doing during the day.
How has the fam trip helped you sell Cunard?
Forsythe: I don’t directly sell cruises in my role, but we do have two full time in-house trainers, so I will spend time with them and pass on all the knowledge and first-hand experiences that I have accumulated.
That insight is then rolled out and gives our sales team an authentic view of what a Cunard voyage is all about, so it’s great that the fam trip has influenced how we approach busting certain myths about the brand.
Smith: Every day on board, I would write up notes of what I’d been doing for the day, so that I can always refer back to it when I am talking to customers.
I wouldn’t have had any hesitation in recommending Cunard before, but now I have a tangible image in my mind of what certain activities and venues are like, which will be invaluable when I’m selling to customers with specific tastes or requirements.
Cunard director of UK sales Tom Mahoney added: “Fam trips are always a fantastic opportunity for agents to immerse themselves in the Cunard experience and to really get a feel for what makes our brand so special.
“I’m delighted to hear that both Helen and Danny found their voyage on Queen Mary 2 to be so valuable and we look forward to welcoming more of our travel agent partners on board in the months ahead.”
Cunard has doubled its fam trip programme for 2023 and is hosting agents on eight separate voyages across the year.